Every dispatcher had had their fair share of pointless 911 calls. Usually, they aren't urgent and can end up being either annoying or humorous. The calls these people answered, however, took a turn for the worse. People can act strangely in shocking situations and can make a real emergency seem silly. Thankfully, these operators knew just how to respond.
All content has been edited for clarity.
More Than Just A Fall
“I once had an older female call in saying her husband fell while in the basement.
It was a pretty normal call and I was trying to get more information before turning it over to the Fire Department (EMS) for dispatch. She said she had heard him fall with a loud bang. So, I asked a few more questions because she was so lackadaisical about explaining this. I asked her if she could see him. She said no, he was bed ridden.
So I typed it up as an unknown complaint, but with details of a possible fall and asked about any possible weapons before I turned her over to Fire. I muted myself and stayed on the call, listening to her explain to Fire what she had heard. Before she hung up, I unmuted myself and asked Fire to stay on the line so I could talk to them. I told them it didn’t feel right, so I wrote up a run for us to go also (we have enough police officers that we generally get there before Fire). So the police get there, and old grandpa Jameson had killed himself in the basement.
She was totally oblivious (or didn’t want to admit what she heard) as to what had happened.”
Everything Was Fine At First
“I got a call from Life Alert one time, saying that one of their clients was stuck in her kitchen because her wheelchair got stuck on a cupboard. She wasn’t in duress, just needed to get unstuck.
It wasn’t an urgent call and it was a busy night, so the road sergeant had to pull a unit off the call twice due to more urgent calls. After he pulled the second unit, he said he would go and help her while the other calls were being handled.
When she arrived, the caller’s front door was open with just the screen door in place (it was a nice day for a breeze), she could see the caller from the screen door and tried to ask if there was a way to unlock the screen or if she would have to cut it to get in.
The caller was not responsive to our sergeant, so she called on the radio that we should have FD en route and that she was going to have to cut the screen door to make entry.
When our sergeant made it in, she found that the caller was sitting in her chair at the sink and was washing dishes. The caller appeared to have dropped a knife and cut into her ankle. She was unable to bend down to stop the bleeding and was on blood thinners. She did not make it.
To clarify, she did not push the Life Alert button for the knife dropping – that happened after she hung up. She had told them that she was fine other than having her wheel stuck and she was actually stuck to the bottom of the cupboard as she said. It was determined by the ME that due to her age, weight, medical conditions and medications that she bled out in just a few minutes and it was likely that she was unable to press the life alert button again due to how quickly she grew weak after trying to struggle to bend over to stop the bleeding.”
The “Serial Caller”
“I’m not a dispatcher, but a paramedic. One time I got called to scene where a woman had told the emergency dispatcher that she had ‘hurt her knee’ (that’s literally what it said on our dispatch screen).
This woman had been a serial caller for all sorts of trivial, non-emergency complaints in the past. The local ambulance area manager had been out to talk to her before about the appropriate use of ambulance resources, but nonetheless, we didn’t think much of it.
We arrived and her right leg was nearly twice the size of her left leg. Her knee cap wasn’t even visible, although some light palpation seemed to indicate that it was about 15cm further around her leg than it should have been.
It turns out that the previous afternoon she had hurt it when she had fallen about 2 meters off a ladder whilst fixing a gutter (she didn’t think to tell dispatch this), but she wasn’t sure if it was bad enough to call the ambulance or go to hospital. She also thought maybe she had lost consciousness for a few minutes, but wasn’t sure.
Her leg was so unbelievably swollen and unbendable, there was no way she was going to be able to get it into a car (let alone be able to drive herself with a dislocated knee, as she lived alone and had limited support), so we reassured her that this was a good use of our resources ad encouraged her in the future to call the medical advice line after future injuries if she wasn’t sure whether to call the ambulance.”
“We got a noise complaint once. The neighbor was playing music too loud. The only reason an officer responded was because he was bored. It turns out that it was a 14-year-old girl whose parents were out of town. She invited a 25-year-old man from a town 3 hours away to come over and nail her all night long. The cop showed up and found her, him, some drinks and a bunch of rubbers laying around. He went to jail. She went to the children’s home until her parents could get back.”
An Explosive Night
“I used to live in Germany (as a military firefighter/dispatcher). One time I got a call from the post office saying that their scanners were going off and they had found something suspicious. It’s pretty late, about 2 in the morning. It was cold and snowy outside. I contacted one our chiefs and dispatched him to go check it out. We got frequent calls like that (it’s usually malfunctioning sensors).
So Chapter 2 did their usual checks. As he was getting to his final check, he examined a scanner’s photo.
Then about 30 minutes go by since I first checked him out of the station, so I casually called him over the net. Chapter 2 says, ‘Yeah, dispatch, I’m going to need EOD. We have a grenade at the post office.’
My peanuts rise into my stomach. I end up calling hazmat teams, EMS, EOD, SF, EM, and MORE fire units. They cordoned off everything. It was the biggest mess to scrabble and get everyone together that late at night.
Once all units were there, it took about 2 hours to find the owner of the package. EOD also pulled the package into their little safe box, so that if it went off, they could contain its blast.
The IC and other command sections finally asked the man to come up and explain his side.
(From what I was told, he was a newer military member and this next part is too crazy to not make up.)
This dude gets brought in by EOD and is like, ‘Yeah, that’s my package. What’s up?’
They explain that there’s a grenade in it and if someone wants to hurt him etc. etc…
He says, ‘No, no. Nobody wants to hurt me.’ (Apparently he was pretty short about the questions.)
Then, without missing a beat, he reaches into the box, GRABS THE THING LIKE KANYE HANDLES HIS MAC BOOKS and says, ‘Naw it’s just my paper weight I bought. It’s a replica… not real.’
I swear, you’ve never seen so many people want to kill a man for the time he wasted.
I laughed because it made my night shift go by quickly!”
Her Silence Said Everything
“My center took a call from a number like 5 times in an hour, always radio silence on the other end. On the 6th call we finally heard enough of a voice to know someone was there and got an address and enough to know that it was serious.
We make entry to the house and find the caller. A man had picked up his soon-to-be ex-girlfriend to ‘talk’. He then duct taped her mouth and zip tied her wrists and ankles and spent the next 14 hours beating her with a bat and assaulting her. He also used a blow torch to give her 2nd degree burns all over her legs and broke her cheek bone.
Apparently he had finally fallen asleep and she got access to a phone. On only one of the calls did she make a sound, the rest it was silent. Since we couldn’t pinpoint an address, we had nothing to go on so we couldn’t find her at first. We had been through the general area looking for anything out of sorts, but since she was in the home and bound, we couldn’t hear or see anything. When she did break free, she was too scared to make noise.
It was an absolutely terrifying moment. What made it worse was that on the review of the tape, we could hear her say ‘help’ on one of the previous calls, but couldn’t hear it on the initial call in.
Thankfully she made a full recovery, albeit with long term mental effects. Her ex-boyfriend is currently going to spend the rest of his life in prison.”
The “Monster In The Closet”
“I’m not a dispatcher, but was in the USAF Security Forces a long time ago.
One call I got was from a kid home alone about a monster in the closet, which was a bit weird because the kid seemed a bit old for that.
When I arrive on the scene, there’s a snake in the closet that’s got to be a at least 150 pounds.
I promptly close closet door.
Noped right on out of that, kid in hand.
Called Animal Control.
Called the parent.
The parent arrives first, indicates they don’t even own a snake, let alone a people-sized snake.
All parties agree that ‘monster in the closet’ was an accurate enough description of the event.”
It Took A Turn For The Worse
“I was the caller in this situation. It was three weeks from Christmas. The Pearson airport in Toronto has deer living in the woods on the edge of the property near HWY 401, arguably the busiest highway in North America.
Well, the fence was down and there was a deer on the edge of the 401 so I called to report a doe on the road. The operator said, ‘A doe?’
I said, Lord forgive me but I couldn’t help myself, ‘Yes, a doe, a deer, a feee-male deer.’
She laughed, I laughed, a truck swerved so as not to hit the deer and took out 2 lanes of traffic.
We stopped laughing.”
“We got a call for debris in the road on the main highway heading into town. It was outside our town limits, but was passed on to us as it was pretty close, and the Sheriff’s department was going to take a while to get to it. We often took small calls like this as a courtesy to their department.
Once the officer arrived, he discovered the debris was what was left of a motorcyclist in a hit and run. The body was in pretty bad shape, most likely hit by a semi, and had been subsequently run over by other motorists not realizing what it was. (It gets pretty dark out in the desert, and the body looked more like someone had dropped some old clothes off the back of their truck or something.)
We had to track down the lady who made the original call. As it turned out, she was in the local convenience store. We discovered one of his arms had flipped up and become lodged in the grill of her car as she ran over it. Along with dealing with the original call, we had to call an ambulance as the lady panicked and went into shock when she saw the arm. It ended up being a long night.
After the initial investigation phase, the whole thing was turned over to the Sheriff’s department. I never did hear if they caught the guy who hit him.”
Just A “Silly” Accident
“This call wasn’t dumb, but it was a seemingly minor (by the way it was portrayed to me). An elderly woman called her doctor (i.e. standard general practitioner at her local clinic) and said her husband had accidentally shot himself and needed to let them know. The GP calls emergency and lets us know, as they thought it sounded minor, but police needed to be aware due to the bullet wound aspect.
It turns out when I call her, she sounds very surprised. The police were calling her and says in her old lady voice, ‘Oh, you know, he’s a silly old man. He’s shot himself in the garage.’
I ask where he is injured and she says, ‘He’s shot himself in the face.’ She was completely calm and serious. He had blown half of his jaw off whilst sitting in a chair in the garage and was bleeding profusely. I don’t think he survived, but I’m unsure. I’ll never forget her saying, ‘Silly [insert name here], what have you done to yourself?’ in a sweet, calm, and caring old lady voice.
It’s very interesting as a dispatcher to be exposed to how people react when they are in shock.
Another one was, I thought, a crazy lady (it was a full moon night and very common to have mentally ill people call about weird things) called talking about her son ‘leaking’ in her living room and something knocking around her house. Very odd. Turns out, after I did some searching in the system, her son had been murdered a week earlier and was lying in state in her living room. He had not been embalmed properly and was leaking black fluid on the floor. The undertaker was knocking at the door trying to be let in to fix the problem.”
That’s Going To Need More Than Painkillers
“I worked IT for a police station and spent a bunch of time hanging out with the dispatchers. One day they get a call from a guy because ‘his leg hurt’. He didn’t give any more details other than that, so they sent out an ambulance and police. The medics go in to find a guy morbidly obese, sitting on a couch for so long that he had literally grown into the couch. Like, his skin had grown around the fabric and everything so you couldn’t pick him up off the couch. The couch was also his toilet. The reason his leg hurt was because it fell off. It had gone septic (or gangrene or something, I’m not a medical professional) and it rotted through and just fell off.
They had to call in a crew from public works to cut a hole in the wall to the house and use a forklift to get him out of the house and into the back of a big truck. Unfortunately, the guy passed away shortly after arriving at the hospital.
The detectives were looking at charging the mother with neglect. She had been bringing food to the guy for years and didn’t do anything to help him, just accommodated him.
The case was so bad/gross that one of detectives immediately stepped down to go work patrol.”
It Started Out As Nonsense, But Took A Dark Turn
“My cousin got a call from a young women that went like this:
Cousin: ‘911 what’s your emerg-‘
Person: mumbling, whispering
Cousin: ‘What? I can’t understand you ma’am.’
Person: mumbling, whispering
Cousin: ‘What’s the address?’
Person: ‘* Road’
Cousin: ‘Okay, ma’am. What’s the problem?’
Person: still whispering ‘There’s a giant man in my house.’
Cousin: ‘Okay ma-‘
Person: screams bloody murder
So the story behind this is that the young girl was home alone and the girl’s parents were at work. A man saw the house and since there were no cars there, he thought that no one was home. He broke in through the window, and as he was doing so, the girl hid under her bed and called the cops.
But the thing was, she went under her bed to where she wasn’t facing the door, which meant she couldn’t see him walk in. Her foot was sticking out from underneath the bed and he grabbed her legs and pulled her out and stabbed her. Thankfully, she survived.”
Classic Ted Bundy Move
“My uncle was a cop and I was with him by his car and got this call. A person said her daughter was going to be arrested and wanted to know what she did wrong. They were puzzled and thought it was a prank call.
A lady called saying her daughter had called her because she was pulled over at the garbage dump and police were searching her because they spotted a couple of empty Budweiser boxes in the back of the truck she was driving. The officer wasn’t listening to her when she said she was taking them to the dump.
The police said it was probably a fake story because none of their officers were on that road. My uncle was out on patrol at the time and saw another officer. He radioed and asked if there was anyone at the dump. They said they didn’t know of any of the officers being there. My uncle responded to the scene and found a girl pulled over. It turns out the guy was a fake cop.”
“Cooking With Blueberries”?
“We have a call that every new trainee at my county listens to during training, because it highlights how completely oblivious our callers can truly be. A neighbor enters her friend’s house because she’s not answering the door. She finds the patient on the couch sleeping. She calls 911 because she’s not waking up. She says, ‘She’s not moving, not answering me or waking up. It looks like she has been cooking with blueberries, her hands are all blue.’
The operator already knows that means she’s dead. We send everyone out, EMS arrives on scene first and immediately backs out. According to the deputy that arrived right after, she had a weapon in hand, shot herself in the head and it splattered ALL over the wall behind her. Our caller never even noticed.”
They Didn’t Beleaf Them
“So we got a call from a couple a few years back that said they had consumed expired edibles and thought they were going to die and all that. Obviously, we thought they were just anxious from the weed.
It turned out when we got to their apartment that the weed they had gotten was laced and we had to rush them to the emergency room because when we got there they had passed out. So that’s my story.”
Trust Her Gut Feeling
“A few years ago my mom was working as a dispatcher for police. She received a call from a young woman who had arrived home from work and said the house felt like someone had been in there. She was convinced it was her husband as she had an apprehended violence order against him. She said he’d broken in before and moved stuff, but this time felt different, and that she was scared. My mom logged it, said police were about 20 minutes away, but said she’d stay on the line to take more details about past events, etc. She thought it was just a break in, or that the woman was paranoid.
Then the woman walked through the house to see if anything was missing. Something caught her eye in the hallway, and she approached to realize there were hand and footprints up the hallway walls going to the ceiling access manhole. She told my mom, then got a chair. My mom begged her to get out of the house, and upgraded the priority. The woman put the phone down, stood on the chair and began to lift the manhole cover. It rose a little bit as per normal, then was slammed down by the weight of someone standing on it. The woman began screaming. Her husband beat her viciously before cops arrived. When they searched it, there was a whole room set up and it looked like he’d been living up there for days.
I’m now wary of manhole covers in my own house.”
“Still Regrets Not Rushing To The Scene”
“Not me, but my cousin is a paramedic in a small town in Texas.
They had received many calls from a family with a diabetic teen daughter over the years. Usually every instance was not an emergency. These calls from the parents started coming in more often and typically the symptoms were mild to moderate, certainly not life threatening. They always advised the parents how to manage her condition so these calls wouldn’t have to happen.
Late one night, the parents called complaining that their daughter appeared sick. My cousin and the paramedics thought it was a typical non-emergency case and didn’t rush to the scene. The station was 20 minutes away. My cousin couldn’t have known the seriousness at the time, the parents just said their daughter was ‘sick looking’.
When they arrived, she was dead from diabetic shock. My cousin thinks she died minutes before they arrived and years later still regrets not rushing to the scene.”